Sexual Side Effects – Chemotherapy
In this article, I’d like to talk about one of the more common treatments for cancers, generally known as chemotherapy. In this article, I'd like to discuss some of the more commonly known side effects related to chemotherapy, as well as, other side effects that are more closely related to sexual health. Let's get started.
What does chemotherapy do?
Generally speaking, chemotherapy targets cells that grow and divide rather quickly, just like cancer cells. In some situations, chemo can destroy a majority of cancer cells therefore, the doctor can no longer detect them in your body. In other situations, the doctor will use chemo to keep cancer from spreading to other areas of your body or even attempt to use chemo to slow the spread of or the growth of the cancerous tumor. Also, the doctor will use chemo to shrink tumors that are causing pain and pressure inside your body.1 While this is a very superficial look at how chemotherapy works, let's look at the side effects and then, more specifically, the sexual side effects of prostate cancer.
Common chemo side effects
Because chemo travels through the entire body, it has the change to also harm other healthy cells, which in turn can lead to side effects. It has to be said not everyone who goes through chemotherapy has side effects. With that said, while this list of side effects does not represent all of them, some side effects may include:
- Hair loss
- Easy bruising and bleeding
- Pain with swallowing
- Nerve and muscle problems (numbness, tingles)
- Kidney problems
- Appetite changes
- “Chemo Brain”
- Problem with concentration and focus
- Mood changes
- Changes to libido and sexual function2
Many of these side effects can be made less several will additional medication. As I mentioned earlier, this is not an exhaustive list of side effects so here, I’d like to switch and look at the sexual side effects of chemotherapy.
Changes in your sexual health
According to the MD Anderson Center at the University of Texas, most people report the loss of sexual desire as a major side effect of cancer treatments. More specifically, they recommend people who are having treatment with chemotherapy using barrier methods, such as condoms and dental dams for oral sex. Why? Chemicals from chemotherapy have been found in semen and vaginal fluids. Also, they warn again trying to conceive a child during chemotherapy treatment because the chemicals are linked to birth defects.3
Additionally, chemotherapy reduces the amount of germ-fighting white blood cells in your body. This is another reason to practice safer sex or barrier methods during sex.4 To take this a step further, chemotherapy decreases the amount of blood-clotting platelets in your body. Therefore, if you recently had surgery and you attempt sex too soon, severe bleeding could be the end result.4
The Mayo Clinic also mentions how chemotherapy can make you too tired and drained for sex. They go on to say “If you're not interested in intercourse, remember that there's more to an intimate relationship than sex. Look for other ways to express affection, such as kissing, cuddling or other shared activities.”5 This sounds a lot like Selfless Sex to me…just saying.
Different experience for everyone
Many of the research articles I read while writing this article mentioned over and over that chemotherapy can affect people differently, depending on what type or brand of cancer treatment you are using. Please, in the comment section below, please feel free to mention other types of sexual side effects you experienced due to chemotherapy. Thanks for reading.
How much do you worry about prostate cancer coming back after treatment?